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The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"Mrs Arroyo promised her presidency will be different"
 real 56k

The BBC John McLean in Manila
"A choir was on hand to greet Mrs Arroyo"
 real 28k

Monday, 22 January, 2001, 11:11 GMT
Estrada faces state plunder inquiry
President Arroyo
Mrs Arroyo has appealed for national unity
Prosecutors in the Philippines have launched a criminal investigation into the allegations of massive corruption which led to the dramatic downfall of President Joseph Estrada.

The announcement came as Mr Estrada's successor Gloria Arroyo moved into the presidential palace and appealed for national unity.

estrada
Estrada was thrown out after a popular revolt
Prosecutors said Mr Estrada was under investigation for economic plunder, a charge which can carry the death sentence.

Mrs Arroyo, formerly vice-president, was sworn in on Saturday after the Supreme Court stripped Mr Estrada of his title, following a popular uprising backed by the military.

Prosecutors said Mr Estrada was also being investigated for misuse of funds, violations of the anti-graft law, perjury, bribery and possession of unexplained wealth.

The former president, who is in seclusion in his private home in suburban Manila, has 10 days to file an affidavit in response.

Challenge

Mrs Arroyo has rejected an amnesty for her predecessor, saying the law should take its course. Mr Estrada's presidential immunity from criminal prosecution has been lifted.

I want to be a good president, help me be a good president

President Gloria Arroyo
However reports said Mr Estrada may be preparing to challenge his removal from office.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel said he had received a letter from Mr Estrada referring to Mrs Arroyo only as "acting president" and suggesting he could retake the presidency.

In the letter written on 20 January, the president said he was currently unable to carry out his duties, but that under the constitution he could resume them at a later date.

Mr Pimentel said it appeared Mr Estrada was preparing a constitutional challenge, although there has been no formal move to do so yet.

Palace

Mrs Arroyo formally started her duties with an appeal for national unity after moving into the Malacanang presidential palace on Monday.

Malacanang Palace
Mrs Arroyo lived at the palace as a teenager
As she entered the compound, she was greeted by a guard of honour in ceremonial uniform.

"We must stand together. We must heal the nation," Mrs Arroyo said after a flag-raising ceremony.

"I have no grandiose dreams to be a great president but I want to be a good president. Help me become a good president," she told palace staff and guards.

Appointments

The new president said there would be "no mass purge" of the bureaucracy left behind by Mr Estrada.

She has already reappointed Defence Minister Orlando Mercado, whose defection to the opposition helped tip the balance against Mr Estrada.

Armed forces chief General Angelo Reyes, who withdrew his support from Mr Estrada last week, has also been retained.

Renato de Villa, who has previously served in both posts, was named executive secretary - a position roughly equivalent to prime minister.

The palace is already familiar to Mrs Arroyo who lived there as a teenager when her father Diosdado Macapagal was president in the early 60s.

Impeachment

Mr Estrada was removed from office just days after the dramatic collapse of his impeachment trial in the Senate.

During the hearing he was accused of receiving millions of dollars in kickbacks from illegal gambling syndicates and skimming off taxes.

Reports say even if Mr Estrada is eventually found guilty of economic plunder it is unlikely he would receive the death penalty.

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See also:

20 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Challenges confronting Arroyo
20 Jan 01 | Media reports
Arroyo inaugural speech: Excerpts
21 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo moves to bolster economy
20 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
World leaders welcome Arroyo
18 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada's bank records revealed
18 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada tries to ride out storm
17 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Uproar at Estrada trial
22 Jan 01 | Business
Philippines economy on the brink
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